Roads to nowhere


Standing on a crowded tube this week, something occurred to me: why do they bother heating the London Underground? Since the tube is underground and full of people, it doesn’t get that cold. More to the point, anyone taking public transport will at some point have to walk outside. Presumably, they will have dressed accordingly and will be wearing jackets, coats, scarves and so on. So why turn the heating on full blast, and pump carriages full of air so hot passengers would feel uncomfortable in shorts and a t-shirt? Surely not heating the tube would save a lot of money, make travelling on it far more pleasant, and even reduce emissions (assuming one cares about that sort of thing)? It seems like commonsense to me, but maybe I’m missing something.


Continuing with the transport theme, is it really necessary to close so much of Westminster to traffic for the Queen’s speech? As far as I could tell, more or less all the roads within half a mile of Parliament were shut on the day, making it just about impossible to get anywhere. Meanwhile, a number of main roads stayed closed all week, filling alternative routes (like Great Smith Street, home of the ASI) with a constant stream of noisy, slow moving traffic. What’s most annoying is that the whole thing is a pointless charade anyway. Everything the Queen announces to Parliament has been leaked to the press in advance, and most of it will never become law anyway. The pomp and circumstance of the occasion may be nice for tourists, but for the rest of us it’s just a pain.


Finally, one of the things you notice when you’ve got a traffic jam outside your window is how many buses drive around virtually empty. We often hear that buses ease congestion by fitting more people into less space, but I can’t believe that’s true outside the rush hour. Once you take account of how much road space is reserved solely for the use of buses, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if they were causing congestion, rather than reducing it.